IJM Rwanda and Police Secure Justice for Josette Only Months After Abuse

Rwandan families face many obstacles in court, and cases can delay for years. With a strong defender, Josette saw justice in only four months.
Rwandan families face many obstacles in court, and cases can delay for years. With a strong defender, Josette saw justice in only four months.

KIGALI, RWANDA – IJM recently helped to secure the conviction of a Rwandan man for sexually assaulting 14-year-old Josette* in their neighborhood. The judge delivered a strong sentence of 20 years to make sure this man cannot hurt other girls again.

In May 2013, Josette's father heard her shouting from a neighbor's house and ran to see what was wrong. His discovery was shocking: a man he knew had grabbed Josette and was raping her. The attacker fled, and Josette's father took her to a local hospital for urgent medical care.

A hospital social worker heard about the family's nightmare and referred them to IJM. They had no money to pursue a legal case on their own, but IJM's free legal help gave Josette's family the chance they needed to seek justice.

IJM Rwanda worked with police to locate additional witnesses and evidence that would uphold the truth in court. IJM collaborated closely with a state prosecutor to move the case through the court system and make sure each witness could testify without interference at a court hearing in July. All of this quick action helped convince the judge of the truth—handing down a guilty sentence on September 24, 2013.

With IJM to support and encourage them, Josette's family could stand up for her rights and find the justice she deserved. Senior Attorney James Nuwagaba says, "IJM's intervention was central to holding the perpetrator accountable for his actions."

Reaching a decision just four months after the attack is fairly quick by local standards. Poor families like Josette's often see their cases delay for months or years in the court system, and they may face pressure from their community to drop charges or accept payments before their case ever reaches judgment. But with IJM to support and encourage them, Josette's family could stand up for her rights and find the justice she deserved.

Today, IJM social workers are walking with Josette through a trauma-focused therapy program as she heals from the abuse. They will help her return to school early next year and will work with her mother to start a small business to provide new income to help the family.

*A pseudonym